Dear Men, Being Creepy is Sexual Harassment

"Creep"

Dear Men,

Have you ever made a sexual comment to a woman and were confused about why it was offensive to her? Admittedly, it’s rare that I come across a man who doesn’t properly understand when making sexual comments about a woman to her face is inappropriate, but unfortunately I find myself living with one these men at the moment. Although he has agreed not to do it again, he does not feel his comments were inappropriate.

It appears my new male roommate is a bit confused about the meaning of sexual harassment. He made some comments about “enjoying the view” of my body after I’d only lived with him for a few days, which was quite upsetting to me. I did my best to explain to him why what he did was harassment, and he disagreed with me. He said it was all a matter of perception. I said he could look up the definition of the term on the Internet. So which is it?

I guess the real question is, at what point does it actually become appropriate to make sexual comments to a woman you’ve recently met? Answer: Once you’ve reached a certain level of intimacy, which must include her clearly signaling sexual interest to you! That means that if you misinterpret her signals and think that she likes you when she doesn’t, she’s going to be very creeped out by your comments. The safest bet is to come right out and ask her if she’s interested in a date, and don’t be vague about it; anything else is a gamble.

The whole creep thing was once very well explained by Joseph Maldonaldo of IAM Center as one person moving too fast down a continuum of relating between two people. On one end are the complete strangers; on the other are intimate partners or friends. Moving along the continuum takes time and a willingness of both parties to move the relationship in that direction. To move too quickly along is to be a creep, literally creeping along the continuum to a point where the other party isn’t comfortable. It’s forcing one’s way past another person’s boundary with no regard for that person’s comfort. Sexual harassment is, in the general sense, being a creep. It means making sexual comments that would only be acceptable if you and the other person were further down the continuum, except that you are not. And after only knowing me for a few days in the context of being roommates, we are still at the level of acquaintance.

I am so grateful that most of you get this, no explanation necessary, but I guess I just needed to vent about how frustrating this can be. He actually said to me, “I thought you were the fun type,” as an excuse for saying what he said. So I guess he is right that it is a matter of perception, the problem is that his perception of our “relationship” was way off, and unfortunately I now perceive him as a creep and he perceives me as uptight. I’m just so disappointed in both of us for not being able to communicate about this better. Thanks for listening.

Love Courtenay

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5 Comments on “Dear Men, Being Creepy is Sexual Harassment”

  1. Sara says:

    Your roommate sounds like a creep. Do you feel safe living with him?

    • Courtenay says:

      Hey, thanks for your note. Yup, he was most certainly being a creep. I feel uncomfortable living with him, but not unsafe. Since confronting him about his comments, he seemed genuinely apologetic and said that it wasn’t his intention that I feel uncomfortable. That said, in his mind I’m just overreacting, but he has been respectful enough not to make any other comments like that. In fact, I’m pretty sure he now feels just as uncomfortable as I do, so we speak to each other only for necessary communication at this point.

      I had immediately decided I was moving out asap when the incident happened, and then I remembered that I’d just mail ordered $300 worth of meds to the apartment for a health condition I’m struggling with. With the 6-8 business day delay in payment with PayPal and the shipping, I’m hoping it’s all here before the end of the month. If things improve in the meantime I may stay a bit longer, but it’s certainly not the living situation I signed up for. He lacks social skills, but I don’t feel he is violent or dangerous in any way. The apartment itself is awesome: great location and cheap (which is important since I’m unemployed at the moment), but I’m keeping my eye out for other options. Thanks 🙂

      • Sara says:

        Good luck to you, and I hope all goes well. It is possible that living with you will be a learning experience for him and he learns boundaries and respect. It just shouldn’t be your burden to teach him.

        All the best

      • Courtenay says:

        Thanks for wishing me luck! He may learn something, but I’m not holding my breath. For me it was an excellent opportunity to strengthen a belief in my ability to set boundaries, which is something I never learned how to do at an earlier age – I just thought it was normal to have others invade my personal space until about 5 years ago! So it was a learning experience for me too. I can tell that for him to admit to himself that his behaviour was hurtful, he’d have to feel shame for all the times he’s done this to others, and I guess his pride won’t allow that at this time. One thing I’ve observed with him is that he often complains about how others are trying to screw him over, so he may actually feel like a victim in this case. Either way, boundaries are now set and reinforced, and he’s been leaving me alone, so I’m feeling much better. Thanks again for your note 🙂 All the best to you too!

  2. […] feeling that I got from “being right” in this situation as well. There’s no mistaking that he said some very inappropriate things to me – everyone I’ve mentioned it to has cringed a bit when I tell the story – but the silver […]


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